Archives for October 2010

Shock and Awe

Items taken from Bundy's Volkswagen, August 16...

Image via Wikipedia

I am a big scaredy cat. I get squirrelly in dark parking lots, check my back seat for Ted Bundy, and keep every door and window locked despite the sweltering heat of summer.   The Night Stalker killings and rampage of the 1980’s terrorized my childhood dreams and sleep for years, even after he was incarcerated and even when my fear was more detrimental than reality.  Admittedly, if ADT offered a personalized alarm system, one that monitored my body’s perimeter for criminals, sex offenders and violent youth, I would be the first to sign up.

I know I am not alone in this irrational attachment to fear.  Women, in general, seem far more prone to insecurity than men when it comes to feeling safe and the media only plays into our anxiety.  Watching the eleven-o-clock news requires a black belt in karate or at minimum, a proficient knowledge in the use of handguns and weaponry. At least the Today show filters down the evil antics of the night before to a few newsworthy stories. The media’s fascination with shock value has given the general public an overload of information, much of it detrimental to our sense of well-being.

 In an effort to “enlighten us,” it has not come without a great cost.  We have sacrificed of our sense of peace and perceived security on the altar of “shock and awe news.” Jack Nicholson said it best, “You can’t handle the truth.” I both agree and simultaneously disagree with him. I would argue that a little truth goes a long way, and in some cases, I would actually prefer to be sheltered from every single murder and drive-by incident. On the flip side, deep down my spirit pushes me to cry out for the oppressed in direct opposition to my inner wuss who wants to live in denial.

That’s not to say violence hasn’t touched my own life. I don’t live in a bubble.  As a small child, an intruder broke into our home and assaulted my own mother at knife-point.   I’ve had my share of attempted break-ins, altercations, and even a bounty-hunter who terrorized my family one night due to a mistaken identity.  And maybe that’s the reason why my heart breaks every time I see another story of devastation and abuse.  Isn’t life hard enough without a play by-play rerun of its atrocities? 

As a story–teller, I too am at a conundrum. I aim to evoke emotion from my writing.  I want to expose the injustice in the world and bring it to light.  Conversely, as a woman and a mother, my deepest desire is for security and a sense of well-being. It is a duality that confronts all of us.  This is where faith in God and our deepest trust issues collide.  The Scriptures say to “fear not” while my flesh trembles and panics.  Maybe that’s why, “Don’t be afraid,” is repeated more often than any verse in the Bible.  God knew the torment we would encounter and suggests only He, can provide us with the peace and security we long for.

So until the day I will meet Jesus face to face, I will continue to lock my doors, skip the late news and press into the truth, even when I would rather shut my eyes and even when the façade of safety seems more appealing than the violence of reality.

 

Herding Kittens…

A few days ago, I had a disturbing incident while herding kittens across the mall parking lot. Ok, maybe they were cheerleaders…but it felt strangely similar. My daughter’s cheer squad is composed of ten girls between the ages of eight and twelve.  Imagine a pre-pubescent tapestry of girl drama, crazed Justin Bieber fans, and fragile hormones in bloom.  Get the picture?

So the little cats, I mean cheerleaders, had an all day practice at the church to prepare for competition.  Once the whining started, their cheer coach, called a time-out and we headed over to the food court at the mall for lunch.  The mall is in walking distance from the church, but can be a treacherous journey because of the steep hill and few sidewalks.  On top of the danger factor, I had the baby with me, harnessed securely in her stroller, so the mama bear factor was in full effect.  I was a fierce woman protecting her baby and cheer cubs.

On the way back, full of Sprite and tacos, the girls were extra boisterous, and the coach and I cajoled and pleaded with the girls to stay on the side-walk.  They gave each other piggy back rides, gossiped, yelled out cheers at the top of their lungs, and made sure that all cars passing by noticed their utter cuteness. I felt somewhat helpless trying to corral them, but I gave it my best shot.  We tried a different route on the way back, hoping for a little less anxiety, but inevitably we rounded another corner with no sidewalk.  Very carefully, I instructed the girls to hug the side of the street, and we marched two by two around the turn.  In the blink of an eye, a woman driving a white Mercedes whipped around the corner, in the wrong lane, and headed straight for us.  Fortunately, she made eye contact at the last second and swerved out-of-the-way.

The coach yelled at her to slow down.  So the lady obliged.  She slowed down long enough to give us a dirty look and glare at us. In my best pastor’s wife voice I said, “Please, go ahead and speed back up.  I am sure you can kill someone else!”

Ok, maybe that was Satan’s voice, but I did say it in a syrupy sweet tone. In response, she whipped her finger out of the car, shouted an expletive beginning with F… and ending with You, and then used the corresponding hand motion.  This woman actually flipped off a baby, two mothers and a passel of cheerleaders.  What is the world coming to?

The girls were shocked and I was stunned.   The coach and I looked at each other in disbelief. This woman, who had almost killed a group of children while driving in the wrong lane, and speeding no less, had just given us the bird.  Please tell me how you explain that to a group of little girls. 

“Girls, the psycho lady didn’t mean to act so ugly, she was just having a bad day.”

In all reality, we were too frightened to say much.  The near brush with death had sobered up even the most hyper girls of the bunch, and for a few moments, all were subdued. But little girls have short memories, and soon their gaiety returned, albeit…their steps were more careful and their eyes more alert.

I have to wonder though, what kind of hurry was the lady in? Was a sale at the mall worth a life in prison for vehicular manslaughter?  Is any event, appointment, or momentary drama worth risking a life for? 

And most importantly…where do I need to slow down in my life and stop taking dangerous short-cuts?

Profound Lessons from Aspergers Syndrome

isolation

Image by Norma Desmond via Flickr

It was the night of the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at our church.

 As the pastor’s wife, I am generally required to attend these sorts of things with the unspoken expectation to always smile, be nice, and glow with the joy of the Lord, even if I have to, dare I say… fake it.   I was running late that evening, overwrought with juggling three kids, sports practice, and a cranky baby. My plastered on smile thinly hid tears of frustration leaking out my nose.  As I stood and perused the room full of familiar faces, the tension in my spirit only clogged my throat more.  I felt like an intruder interrupting a play in the second act. The crowd was engaged in conversation and gaiety and I felt like I was barging in with a bag full of awkward.  I stood on the outside, trying to find the right moment to break into the group, but none seemed to be forthcoming.  Then I saw him, a boy with an apparent disability, obviously struggling to find his place, and something in my heart connected, his outward instability mirroring my own inner turmoil.

I sat down next to him and smiled, possibly the first of the evening with any emotion behind it.  The seats were close and our shoulders brushed when I scooted in my chair. He looked up at me and frowned, his large eyes expressing scorn at my presence.  In a cheery voice, I stuttered, “Hello!

Instead of “hi” in return, he groaned, “ughh,” and rolled his eyes, disgust dripping from his every breath.  Stunned, I could only laugh.  Peals of tension rolled away in a glorious moment of self-deprecating humor. Not that I would ever show it, but I too, have moments when I want to turn and run the other way from people. His complete transparency was a treasured gift.  There was no guile or charm about him, just raw emotion spewing from his soul.

His mother jumped in and apologized profusely.  “Our son has Aspergers Syndrome” she whispered in explanation. Both the mother and father appeared exhausted and overwhelmed.  I noticed they had two little boys sitting next to them as well.  Their weary faces told a story of resignation and personal agenda’s relinquished that I couldn’t even imagine.  My little pity-party quickly faded in the light of their self-sacrifice in caring for a child with special needs.

I nodded my understanding, but was determined not to leave, even though I could sense her apprehension regarding her son’s erratic behavior. Just then, one of my favorite ushers sat down on the other side of the boy. He started to talk to him, just jabbering really, anything to try to help relax the boy’s parents. He told the boy that I was the pastor’s wife and that I used to volunteer with High School Students.  The boy covered his ears.  He went on and shared with him how I had helped start our church with my husband.  This time the boy yawned. My usher friend shrugged his shoulders and looked sad, but somehow I knew I wouldn’t break through his walls with an assortment of credentials.

The boy turned and faced me. “So what do you do now…right now?” he asked.

His question caught me right in the middle of bite of pasta, which slipped off my plastic fork and landed on his right foot.  “Well,” I said, willing to throw caution to the wind, “Sometimes I like to throw noodles.” And I launched another one at his left foot.

The boy burst into laughter along with the rest of the table and a gentle wave of release rolled over us.  His protective walls came down and he suddenly he began to chatter away, allowing us for a short time, to enter his world. He told us all about his love of McDonald’s desserts and how Korea had the best dessert menu of all.  His mom jumped in and shared that he had memorized every McDonald’s menu in the world, country by country.  Clearly brilliant, opinionated, and passionate, the boy seemed to have exaggerated mental gifts juxtaposed with irrationality.  He was both at once delightful and overwhelming. But for a brief moment, his mother relaxed and let go of her tension, sitting back and joking with his two younger brothers.

The boy’s father came back to the table with an enormous piece of carrot cake for him.  He gently placed it in front of him with a plastic knife and fork and smiled at him.  In one fell swoop, the boy inhaled half the cake. The fathers smile quickly disappeared.  “Slow down bud!  Use your fork and knife!”

But the boy did not like to be reprimanded and he grabbed the knife like a dagger and stubbornly resisted his father. In a battle of wills, the boy reluctantly cut the remaining piece in two and shoved them both in his mouth in rapid succession.  Trying not to tremble, the knife only inches from my face, I dared not move an inch.  In lightening speed his father grabbed the knife, cleaned up the frosting smeared all over his face and sent him off to explore the church. His mom trotted after him, glancing back with an apologetic look.  The father collapsed into the chair and rested his head in between his hands, exhausted and embarrassed. 

“You know you are doing a great job, don’t you?” I said.

His eyes filled with tears and he whispered, “I don’t know.  He’s better at home. He feels safe there” 

Our eyes met, acknowledging a difficult situation at best, recognizing that sometimes there are no words.  I could see his fierce and unconditional love for their first-born son mixed with sadness, disappointment and struggle. His wife came back to the table and the little boys ran off to play and care for their brother, another reminder of how their whole family was affected by Aspergers. 

“Does he ever get lost?” I asked, noticing how he would become entranced by an object and take off at full speed only to have his attention caught elsewhere a moment later. 

“Not usually”, they said in unison.

His mom laughed, “Then again you don’t see us exactly running after him.” They smiled at each other, an inside joke perhaps, all the tenderer to the observer because of their apparent love for each other. “But he always comes back,” she said in exasperation and acceptance.

Then we took communion together, a group of broken people…acknowledging our Savior’s sacrifice.

 I watched them pack up the boys and head home.  Neither of them had been chosen as one of the volunteers to be publicly affirmed in front of the crowd that night, but then their offering to the Kingdom and the church wasn’t a loud one.  It was a quiet and daily surrender, a desert journey of faith that these two humble Saints had said “yes” to.  In the light of their obstacles, I was amazed that they even showed up to volunteer more. 

And, as I gathered up my own little flock for the night, my heart encouraged and challenged by the sacrificial love of this family, my burdens didn’t seem quite so heavy anymore and my church felt like home once again.

The big bad yellow bus…

Front of a yellow school bus.

Image via Wikipedia

In another initiative to over protect our kids and alleviate any modicum of self-reliance, a suburban Chicago school district has outfitted their students backpacks with a luggage tag size GPS that monitors when the student gets on and off the bus.  While I can appreciate the concern of parent’s for their child’s welfare, this whole concept of micro-chipping our pets and kids has an ominous big brother tone that is eerily playing out before our very eyes.  But more importantly, from a developmental perspective, navigating the bus, with all its relational drama and intensity, is a rite of passage for a child. This is where we learn to stand on our two feet, set good boundaries and survive in a world without mom and dad. It’s where both good and bad decisions are made, and kids actually learn from natural consequences.

 This takes me back to my own bus story as kid, a defining moment in the spectrum of childhood adventure. It also makes me wonder how many kids will we emotionally handicap by never letting them screw up, get lost and find their way back home.

The year was 1977; I was seven-year old 2nd grader, taking the big yellow school bus home for the first time.  Apprehensive all day, the momentous occasion had finally arrived.  There I stood, in my rainbow knee socks and straggly pig-tails, taking in what seemed like an endless row of busses.  My parents had told me to take the bus that went to South Huntington Beach but I could only see black numbers on the side of the yellow behemoths.  Starting to panic, I asked one of the drivers where they were going.  He looked down at me, scratched his scraggly chin, and said, “Honey this bus is going to Huntington Beach.”

Well…that seemed close enough, so I skipped on up the stairs, and settled down into a seat near one of my classmates that I recognized.  We drove off and I settled in to what seemed like an awfully long ride to South Huntington Beach.  After all the kids but one had gotten off the bus, it started to dawn on me that something was terribly wrong.  Timidly I approached the driver, “Sir, I thought you said we were going to Huntington Beach?”

The old driver cackled, “I just drove through the whole damn town.  You lost kid?”

“Yes sir,” I warbled, my eyes filling with tears.

“Well this bus is going back to the yard and I got plans. You gotta get off at the next stop cuz I don’t have time to deal with you.  Go with that other kid and call your mom.”

“Ok,” I said, more scared of the bus yard than being abandoned.  I envisioned a field of empty yellow buses with no mommies for miles.

I followed the sole little girl off the bus and asked her if I could call my mom from her house. She agreed and off we trotted to her home.  Her mother fussed over me like a hen, until my own mom arrived, distraught over the mishap.  I heard my mother telling the girl’s mom; “you would think a kid going to a gifted and talented magnet school could figure out how to take a bus.”

Embarrassed and yet exhilarated that I had survived a dangerous journey all by myself, I stood up a little taller and I didn’t hold my mom’s hand on the way out like I usually did.  Strangely enough, some lessons of self-reliance can only be learned by getting on the wrong bus.

If Only It Were As Simple As Having God On Speed Dial

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

I have Jesus on speed dial.  When a monumental crisis is looming or I need directions for the roadmap of life, I just grab my iPhone and hit God.  Generally he answers on the first ring, but sometimes I am put on hold due to turmoil in the Mideast or the occasional tsunami. Fortunately, I have a special ringtone, so he generally gets back to me within five minutes – max. 

Yeah right!  If only hearing God’s voice was that easy.  Though we were initially designed for this type of connection, Adam and Eve, bless their sinful hearts, interrupted our ability to walk side by side in the Garden and hear God call out our name.  So, until that glorious day, when we will meet him face to face, we are left with a deep desire within to know our Creator. While this yearning is enough to motivate us into action it is often wrapped in confusion. Does God speak to His people today like he used too in Biblical times?  What does his voice sound like?  Will I recognize it? And ultimately, how do we pursue something so incredibly elusive?

What we often forget in our eagerness for instant gratification and fast answers is that all relationships take time to develop intimacy. Our ability to discern God’s voice is directly related to the depth of our relationship and the journey we have experienced with our Father. Over time, as our spiritual journey matures, our recognition of the myriad ways God communicates will sharpen.  And though we may not be able to hear an audible voice on speaker phone, we can learn to quiet our heart, open our eyes and hear God loud and clear.

When Samuel was a young boy, and God called him out of sleep to give him a message, he did not have the ability to recognize God’s voice and needed Eli’s assistance. But as he grew into a man and eventually into the judge that would lead Israel, he trained his ear to hear the Lord. The name Samuel means “listens to God.” It implies action.  Samuel was intentional.  He paused and…he actually listened!  In a world of incessant noise this may be one of the greatest challenges we face as believers.

One of the ways God speaks is through circumstances.  Doors open…doors close and opportunity knocks. Relationships develop, sparks fly, and something is created out of nothing.  Miracles happen, rescues are made and battles are won.  The first step is awareness in what the Spirit might be communicating through daily living

The other day, I had a great opportunity to hear God and it only took a jackhammer for him to get his message across.  As a busy mother of three children, time alone is nonexistent, and so I was eager to chaperone my daughter’s cheer squad for a long practice at our church, because I knew I could go off and hide while the coach drilled the girls.  I settled down in the nursery with my nine month old baby for a nice quiet afternoon, anticipating that the baby would entertain herself and I could pen about ten thousand words.

My first mistake was thinking the baby could be so easily duped by a few flashy toys and some tasty snacks, but I was determined to be productive.  I managed to write a whole paragraph when my laptop suddenly died.  Because it was plugged in to the charger, I was baffled. But, it refused to start and I was getting frustrated.  Fearing a blue screen, I checked and rechecked, only to realize that I had brought the wrong charger.  I have an HP and I was trying to connect it to my husband’s Dell power brick. OK God, I chuckled, you want me to go Old School and use a pen.  In a posture of sincere adaptability, I sat on the floor with a journal and a pen, to calm the now fussy baby and continue on my literary quest for greatness. 

One sentence in, the baby grabbed my pen and laughed. Every time I attempted to write she batted at the paper, the pen, my face…whatever she could get her little hands on.  Then she started crying.  In an act of surrender I put down the pen and asked God what he wanted me to hear.  I grabbed the bottle and a blanket and reached for the baby. She snuggled close into my arms and I began to rock, rock and rock.  Finally we found our rhythm.  As the baby relaxed and fell asleep, I knew in my heart that I needed to lean into my Father’s arms the way the baby was resting in mine. 

God was giving me a gift.  I had hours alone with my sweet angel, without distractions, time to bond, sing worship songs, giggle and play peek-a-boo. Letting go of my agenda was the only way to experience his plan for me.   Later on the day, she fell asleep again and I was able to write again…deeply humbled, blessed and cognizant of God’s love. 

Ironically, it doesn’t take much for God to communicate a message.  I heard him loud and clear through a power cord and a fussy baby.  The challenge is to be aware, because God is always moving!


First published on Everyday Christian, October 19, 2010

Jr. High Boys and the I Love Boobies Campaign

Article first published as Jr. High Boys and the I Love Boobies Campaign on Technorati.

My twelve year old son has recently become an advocate for breast cancer awareness.  Who knew he was so compassionate about fighting cancer? He even wore a pink armband in his last football game.  And though I am excited that I can actually find him on the football field in a dog pile, his obsession with NFL.com/pink raises some big red flags for this mama.  Now call me naive….but I wonder if his sudden interest has any connection to do with the “I Love Boobies” campaign?
In a brilliant marketing scheme, capitalizing on our hyper sexualized culture, the keep a Breast Foundation folks have certainly generated publicity, but at what cost? Is an adolescent boy with raging hormones their intended audience?  Because, quite frankly, his parents hold the checkbook and it’s only pissing me off, not helping their cause.  There are plenty of non-profits legitimately raising funds for breast cancer research that I am more apt to support versus the ones exploiting boobs for cash. 
Why this campaign smells like a rat:

 
• It’s Offensive

 
First of all, our national obsession with artificially enhanced breasts has absolutely nothing to do with a cancer victim fighting to save her life.  While Heidi Montag may be the epitome of the Girls Gone Wild mentality, having boobs the size of a beach ball doesn’t evoke a lot of sympathy to a woman facing death and a double mastectomy.  If anything, it trivializes the devastation to both her breasts and the disease itself.  If I saw an infant wearing an I Love Boobies t-shirt, I might be more prone to levity, but on a pimply teen, it’s just plain offensive. This campaign objectifies a woman as a sexual object instead of a human being battling a serious illness.
Tracy Clark-Flory put it this way. “When death is truly knocking at your door — and I’m not talking about early, uncertain cases — most aren’t thinking about how much they love their breasts, they’re thinking about how much they love not being dead. They’re thinking: Chop those things off, now.”
• What’s the real message?

 
I also have two daughters at home and I can only speculate what this message conveys to them?  Do we love hurting women or just their mammary offering to society? What is the worth of a woman… her contribution to society or her bra size? And, what’s next? Do we allow our girls to run around in Juicy sweats with “I Love Colons” plastered on their little bottoms? How about an “I Love Balls” t-shirt?  Does this really heighten awareness or advance perversity masquerading as a worthy cause?
• What are the Consequences?

 
And for those that minimize this, I would argue that the battle for our sons to protect them from a lifetime addiction to pornography starts here. During the most impressionable age of sexual identification, this is another area of compromise alluring to our children.
Ron Hogan at PopFi stated, “Maybe some kids are just wearing these bands because they say “boobies” on them. But “who cares?” The bracelets are getting out an important message. Besides, students are exposed to “much worse things than breast-themed bracelets” at school every day.
Who Cares?  I do!  And while we can’t protect our children from everything, schools do try and limit their exposure to harmful behaviors. I would argue that the very same reasons why schools outlaw guns, sexual harassment, bullying, and gay bashing also motivate them to ban these bracelets from the playground.  Why would it ever be beneficial to degrade a woman fighting cancer?
Breast cancer is destructive in its own right.  Exploiting our kids in the interest of propagating an ad campaign doesn’t further the cause.So, even though I love breasts, particurally cancer free ones…I won’t be buying any of their bracelets for my pree-teen son to show my support

Read more: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/family/article/jr-high-boys-and-the-i/page-2/#ixzz132PETejm

The Face of Jihad

Children in Khorixas, Namibia

Image via Wikipedia

About ten years ago at a Christian rock concert, I was introduced to the humanitarian group called “World Vision” and felt compelled to be a part of their mission.  World Vision is dedicated to working with children, families and communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.  Basically, my involvement would be in the sponsorship of a child in need through monthly giving.  My children were very small at the time, but I envisioned picking a child that they could connect with and learn about giving and social awareness.  The little boy I chose had the same name as our family and “Adam” became a subtle reminder to us, all over the years, that in the smallest of ways we were all a part of the same global community of faith.  We received pictures from him and letters updating us on his growth and education.  We laughed when he sent us a picture of his new goat and my little ones drew him pictures of our family.  Ultimately, Adam became a goat herder and grew up and out of the program. But Adam had touched our lives in more ways than he would ever know. 

When I suddenly became a single mother, and struggled financially to provide for my children, I was challenged to believe that God would provide for not only us but Adam as well.  Sometimes I would look at my stack of bills and then at his picture and laugh.  He never knew how many times I almost gave up on him in my own desperation. I learned much about sacrificial giving through a little boy from Ethiopia and my children learned about staying the course and having a double fisted faith in God’s promise to take care our basic needs. 

Recently, World Vision sent us a picture and bio of a new child to replace Adam.  Ironically, once again we are being challenged by our World Vision child. My son, now twelve, and my daughter, now nine, were excited to open up the package and see who God had chosen for us.  My husband was now also part of our little group and as we tore into the envelope and read his name we were shocked to learn that he was called “Jihad.” 

Our first reaction was one of confusion.  World Vision is supposed to be a Christian organization and clearly this was a Muslim child as indicated by his papers.  This raised many questions in our home about what it meant to be the hands and feet of Christ, even in the face of our enemies.  This child may never know he has been named after one “striving in the way of Allah,” but his needs for food and clothing are probably all too real.  Tim and I considered asking for a different child, but finally decided to continue supporting him despite our conflicting feelings. 

While I don’t know if I am supporting a child that may someday fight against my own children or all that I believe in, I do want to be open to what God is doing in my life.  Jihad’s picture is penned up on my desk at work beside my children and husband.  He is slowly growing on me, though I do feel more of a sense of obedience than any natural affection. Once a month as I write out his check, I look at him and laugh and can only wonder what the Lord is doing in my heart through this boy.

Nonsense

I was a journalism major in college, and then a theatre major, moved to political science, and  finally graduated with a degree in history.  My BA should have an MA in ADD.  Summing up all my skills, I think this qualifies me to write a little about a lot or maybe a lot of nonsense.  I found out the other day nonsense is actually a language and you don’t need Rosetta Stone to become proficient at it.  My daughter and her friend were in the back of the car arguing about whether it was a real language or not.  So we looked it up on  Wikipedia.  Turns out my daughter was right.  Nonsense is  real as much as reality sometimes seems like nonsense.

Nonsense is a verbal communication or written text that is spoken or written in a human language or other symbolic system but lacks any coherent meaning. Many poets, novelists and songwriters have used nonsense in their works, often creating entire works using it.

An example of nonsense: when you are just on the verge of falling asleep and you say random things to your spouse with absolutely no context for the current conversation. Our subconscious mind on the edge of slumber can turn the most articulate person into a babbling fool.  Oh, if only we had tape recorders in those moments. I love it when my husband snuggles into the pillow, then blurts out, “What did the guy in green the car say?”

I think he said, “You’re out of gas, Mr. Over-tired!”

Literary nonsense takes it one step further and for a writer is a cornucopia of delicious words to play with.  In its essence, literary nonsense is contradiction using correct grammar that results in any lack of meaning. The saying, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”  penned by Noam Chomsky is an example of nonsense.

So in honor of fall, autumn and the pure love of spooky words , here is a stab at some Jabberwocky(a poem of nonsense).

The jack-o-lanterns menacing grin lulled the small child into a state of tranquility.

The sweet comfort of terror filling the night with peace.

Snickers and candy corn creating a cacophony of song

And blackest  midnight dancing a jig with dawn.

Why I hate the grocery store…

Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Image via Wikipedia

My husband can attest to the fact that I am, at best, a reluctant recycler.  After living in Newport Beach where they sort your trash, and then moving to the ‘burbs, it’s been hard for me to jump on the two trashcan bandwagon…one for recyclables and one for pure trash.  As a purger, unlike my hoarder husband, I dare to take a stand and boldly say, “I like to throw crap away!” One time I even dumped my trash in a restricted trashcan when mine was full(Yeah I know I am a green traitor).  I despise clutter and so I am quite content throwing away something we may or may not use in the next twenty years.  But, for all my obsessive tendencies, I have given a yeoman’s effort to be a better environmentalist.   Much of this is due to the guilt trip of my children.

The schools have successfully brainwashed our children into depicting my generation(30-40) as a gas guzzling, landfill hogging, ozone destroying enemy.  And the children have been indoctrinated with a Go Green message to infiltrate the homes of the worst offenders…namely me.  And it’s working, because I am slowly, one plastic bottle at a time, separating my trash.  I have also bought one of those cute reusable grocery bags, not that I’ve used it, but it’s there, as tangible evidence to the shift in my heart.

And then one day, out of the blue, I knew I had crossed over to the other side when I had an unexpected reaction at the grocery store.  It’s not the bad service, the long lines, or the mass commercialization of the cereal aisle that gets me, it’s the lousy coupons.  When you check out, after going through the mental anguish of deciding between paper or plastic and then weigh the ramifications of either choice to the environment, the checker proceeds to print out about 500 little pieces of paper to save you money on your next visit. 

Really??? After all the work you and I have done to clean up our acts, clean up our beaches, clean up the oil spill, sort through the trash, drive fuel-efficient cars, go paperless at the office, recycle, recycle, recycle…and the checker just used enough paper to wipe out a forest for coupons that I can never even remember to bring!

I am mad!  Mad enough to raise public awareness and have a mini-fit!

That’s why I am going to Trader Joes where all the bohemian hummus eating people go to shop.  They don’t have coupons, just pure and simple low prices.  And I will sleep better at night knowing I did my part to save the planet

Hurling Darts into Jello…

Strawberry/Raspberry Jell-O Ring

Image by pirate johnny via Flickr

As a writer, I often wonder if my words connect with my audience.  Am I making a point, eliciting an emotion or provoking a response, that changes one’s paradigm, even momentarily?

As a follower of Christ, this question becomes even more pronounced… because in the art of losing myself to glorify Christ, I write to tell His stories, but then secretly wonder if anyone listens???

Often when I write I feel as if I am inspired by the Spirit.  Words flow like water.  My fingers tingle, I am in my element because I am operating within the giftedness I was created for.  Other times, I am at an impasse, relying on my own cleverness, or lack thereof, trying to find words when there are none.

Some might call it a writer’s block and try to push through it. I tend to file these articles away for another day when my eye is fresh.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way,  “The torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost, by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine.”

While wine sounds attractive, prayer must be my muse, or I am tempted to think of my art, writing in this case, as a gift in and of itself, versus an offering to the Giver of all good gifts.

If humility is recognizing who we are in light of God, neither overestimating or undermining our worth, then writing with humility allows us to release our work and give credit where credit is due.  We can let go of the insecurity of penning a masterpiece that may or may not be universally well received.

If our pen has been moved by the Spirit of God, and we write for an audience of one, have we not in all reality hit the mark?

But if we are merely trying to stroke our ego or gain a following to prove our prowess with the pen, then our words are vain folly.

In all honesty, much of my writing attempts are like hurling darts into Jello.  I aim, I throw, and then comes the distinctive sound of jello– blu..blu…blump.

Maybe no one cares or takes interest in something I thought was riveting.  Other times, I aim and hit dead center.  I am praised and feel loveable for my contribution.

Once again, the achievement ladder has stealthy crept into my sincere desire to create.

I…we… must constantly surrender to the Spirit–allowing God to take both the triumphs and the catastrophes, freeing me up to simply use the gifts and talents he has given me for His glory, and hopefully, someone else’s benefit.

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